Thousands line up for Free Comic Book Day

Comic enthusiasts dressed as comic book characters including Batman and Superman at a Free Comic Book Day event in Manila on May 3, 2014.
Comic enthusiasts dressed as comic book characters including Batman and Superman at a Free Comic Book Day event in Manila on May 3, 2014.

"Free is a very powerful word, but I always thought that give was an even more powerful one," says Jud Meyers, owner of Blastoff Comics in North Hollywood.

He's talking about Free Comic Book Day, an international celebration that occurs the first Saturday in May and delivers exactly what it promises: free comic books.

Publishers produce a special comic book just for this day — sometimes they're promoting a book that's coming out, sometimes it's an original comic — and stores can order copies to pass out to patrons.

This year's free offerings from the big two publishers are a "Guardians of the Galaxy" book from Marvel while DC is focused on their superhero girls line, an initiative to attract a new demographic of readers.

"Star Trek: The Next Generation" — "Mirror Broken" from IDW Publishing is another popular option. The book is a preview of an upcoming miniseries that takes place in alternate universe where all the characters are evil. There are plenty of other freebies.

Every store does its own thing. Some allow patrons to choose only three or five free comics per person. "I don't want anybody to be left out. I don't do a limit. I just make sure that their bags are full," Meyers says.

Maybe that explains the line outside Blastoff that stretches at least two blocks. When Meyers spoke to KPCC shortly around 1 p.m., he said, "The store is so filled with people, it's actually hard to get to my register. It's pretty amazing what's happening."

Because his shop is known for its vintage comics, Meyers also gives away comics from 1960s through the present, packing bags with vintage comic gems.

"A kid will open the bag and find a cool Power Man comic from 1975. The reaction is just priceless," he says. By noon, store employees had already gone through the first thousand bags and were putting together more in the backroom. Blastoff Comics will stay open until 8 p.m.

As part of Free Comic Book Day, many stores also host comic book creators as they sign their works.

Blastoff's roster includes Mark Waid, who's currently writing all the Archie books and is known for his work on "Kingdom Come" and "The Flash"; Jody Houser, who's writing new Star Wars: Rogue One book; and Cecil Castellucci, author of "Shade, The Changing Girl," who's signing her latest graphic novel, "Soupy Leaves Home."

Many stores are donating a percentage of today's proceeds to a charity, in Blastoff's case, the Make-A-Wish-Foundation.

"It's all about heroes and villains," Meyers says, "and really Free Comic Book Day is about showing the world that we are the heroes and they're welcome into our secret headquarters."

Click here to find a participating shop near you.